Samuel Leonard (Len) Gray
10 January 1917 - 16 March 2008
Granddad standing on the forecastle of HMS Hood
My Granddad was born on 10 January 1917 in Aldershot,
Hampshire, England to parents Samuel Barker Gray who served in the British
Army and Elsie May Gray (nee Zimmer). To most my Granddad was better known
He is known to have worked as a fitter prior to joining
the Navy. He volunteered for 12 year term in the Royal Navy in December
1934, but did not enter the Navy until 22 January 1935.
My Granddad joined the Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. He
was trained at shore base HMS Victory 2 from January to Aug 1935. After
completing training he joined the crew of
H.M.S. Hood on 30 August 1935.
During his time in HMS Hood, the ship was stationed in
the Mediterranean escorting merchant shipping during the Spanish Civil War.
He was promoted to Stoker 1st Class during this timeframe. He remained with
HMS Hood until 23 November 1937, when he returned to HMS Victory 2. He
remained there until March 1938 when he joined HMS Enterprise. He would be
assigned to both the
light cruiser HMS Enterprise and
Hawkins-class heavy cruiser
HMS Effingham for the remainder of the year.
My Granddad returned to shore base HMS Victory 2 in
February 1939. The remainder of that year saw him serve in/at shore base HMS
Excellent serving in the Hawkins-class heavy cruiser
HMS Frobisher and return again to HMS Victory 2. He was promoted to
Acting Leading Stoker during this timeframe.
In January 1940, my Granddad joined shore base HMS
Cochrane 2 serving in the destroyer HMS Vega. HMS Vega was an
Admiralty V & W class Destroyer. On the 11 Nov, 1940 HMS Vega was damaged
when she hit a mine near Harwich (off Sunk Head). He remained on HMS Vega
until December 1940.
In the meantime, he had been promoted to Leading
Stoker. He spent the rest of the month in shore base HMS Pembroke 4 serving
on the Hunt-class destroyer HMS Athelstone and joined shore base HMS Victory
3 in mid January 1941. He served at HMS Victory 2 in April and May 1941. The
remainder of the year saw him serve in
The HMS Aurora was a part of Force K, a raiding
squadron of cruisers. Their task was to intercept and destroy German and
Italian convoys en route to Libya. The convoys were supplying Rommel's
Afrika Corp in North Africa with troops and equipment.
Force K was sent out on 18 December to intercept a
convoy bound for Tripoli. HMS Neptune, leading the line, struck two mines,
part of a newly laid Italian minefield, during the night of 19 December/20
December 1941. The other cruisers, the HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope also
struck mines. Reversing out of the minefield, HMS Neptune struck a third
mine, taking off her propellors and leaving her dead in the water.
The HMS Aurora was badly damaged, my grandfather worked
on the engines which had been knocked out by a mine, eventually getting
engines working. The Aurora was down to 10 knots (19 km/h) and needed to
turn back to Malta immediately but the destroyers HMS Kandahar and HMS
Lively were sent into the minefield to attempt a tow.
My Granddad’s actions on the night of 19 December 1941
resulted in the saving of many lives of those who served on the HMS Aurora
as the threat of enemy ships in the area was very real.
He joined the shore base St Angelo, HMS
Talbot in Malta in January 1942.
In June 1942 my Granddad was serving on the submarine
depot ship HMS Medway when she was assisting in the evacuation of troops
from Alexandria. Accompanied by eight destroyers she headed for Haifa. At
08.24 hours on the 30th June, 1942 she was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat
U-372. My Granddad climbed down into the water on ropes to his safety. By
the end of World War 2 my Granddad was torpedoed on three separate
Shortly thereafter he was appointed Acting Stoker Petty
Officer (Ty). He returned to shore base HMS Victory 2 in July 1942 and
remained there until July 1944.
While Granddad was assigned to HMS Victory 2 he was
also stationed at shore base HMS Assegai in South Africa. From September
1942 to March 1943 he served on the County-class heavy cruiser HMS
Devonshire. He then served on HMS Laura during March 1943. From March 1943
to January 1944 he served on the submarine depot ship HMS Lucia. He returned
to HMS Assegai in January 1944 to February 1944. Most of this timeframe,
1942 to 1944, was involved in naval operations in the Indian Ocean between
Africa and Australia.
During this timeframe he was promoted to Stoker Petty
Officer (Ty). From July to November 1944 he served at shore base HMS Drake 4
serving on the W-class destroyer HMS Wivern. He then served in shore base
HMS Cochrane 2 until June 1945.
My Granddad served at HMS Victory 2 from June to
December 1945. He was promoted to Stoker Petty Officer during this
timeframe. He then served at HMS Enterprise until January 1946. The
remainder of the year was spent in/at repair ship
HMS Ranpura with a short time at HMS Victory 2.
On February 18th, 1947 my Granddad married my Nanna in
My Granddad and
1947 saw him leave HMS Ranpura and serve in/at shore
base HMS Victory 2, shore base HMS Mercury, shore base HMS Victory,
submarine depot ship HMS Resource, shore base HMS Victory and shore base HMS
Fort St Angelo. He was promoted to Petty Officer Stoker Mechanic that same
year. 1948 saw him leave St Angelo and serve in/at submarine depot ship HMS
Forth. He remained at HMS Forth until January 1950. The remainder of 1950
saw him serve at/in Kamarata Barracks and shore base HMS Victory. He became
a Chief Petty Officer Stoker Mechanic during this time frame.
He served most of 1951 in the aircraft carrier HMS
Implacable. He left the ship in late October to join the crew of battleship
HMS Vanguard. He remained with Vanguard until May 1954. He then transferred
to shore base HMS Bellerophon where he remained until December 1956. He had
been promoted to Chief Mechanic (E) during that timeframe.
My Granddad’s next assignment was a two month
assignment to Victory. He then joined the Town-class light cruiser HMS
Newcastle where he remained until October 1958. He was then posted to shore
base HMS Sultan until March 1960. The rest of that year was spent at shore
base HMS Phoenicia in Malta and shore base HMS Victory. He left HMS Victory
in August 1961 and joined HMS Bellerophon. He rejoined Victory in December
1961 and spent his final month of service there.
My Granddad retired from the Royal Navy and was
pensioned on 21 January 1962.
During his naval service, he received the 1939-45 Star,
Atlantic Star (with France & Germany clasp), Africa Star, Pacific Star,
Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Royal Navy Long Service & Good
In 1963 my Granddad and Nanna emigrated to Australia
with their daughter’s Lynda, Julia and Elizabeth residing in South Australia
in the same house to this date.
My Granddad worked at the Holden Vehicle Manufacturing
Plant in Elizabeth up to the late 1970’s managing in the Main Power Plant.
In retirement my Granddad was always busy finding there
was always something to do around the house from complete renovations inside
and outside the house which he continued to do up to when he was in his 90’s
as well as gardening.
My Granddad has three Grandsons, Grant, Dale and
myself, Craig. He has 9 Great Grandchildren, Ashley, Leanne, Joshua, Jeremy,
Aiden, Jamieson, Benjamin, Seth and Slade. And now a new entry a Great Great
Grand Daughter Amelia.
My Granddad’s Naval career is also on the internet on
the website www.hmshood.com under crew biographies.
is a Time Line of Granddads active War Service
1 9 3
reserve at Portsmouth.
for re-arming and refit.
1 9 4
coast convoy defence in continuation.
Evacuation of troops from Dunkirk
for support of military operations in Channel area.
in evacuation from Ostend and Zeebrugge.
as Senior Naval Officer's ship for operation to sink two
deployment in support of military operations in continuation.
blockships to block harbour entrance at Dieppe
and on completion provided support
evacuation of personnel from Le Havre.
in support of evacuation from St Nazaire and the Bay of Biscay ports.
North Sea convoy escort duty.
convoy escort in continuation.
1 9 4
1 9 4
Squadron duties at
Flow on completion. Carried out sea trial RN design replacement for Type 286
Type 290 prior to its introduction.
(Note: Type 286 was an RAF Air-Surface warning radar modified for
shipbome use and
was of limited value.)
with other ships of Squadron as screen for HM Battleship KING GEORGE V and
HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS during search for German battleship
BISMARCK and cruiser PRINZ
EUGEN which were known to have sailed for attacks on
Atlantic convoys. For details see Naval Staff History, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY and BATTLESHIP BISMARCK by Mulleneheim
with HM Cruisers KENYA and HERMIONE to escort HMS VICTORIOUS during
air search operations.
to refuel in Iceland.
(Samuel Leonard Gray boards the HMS Aurora)
patrol duty in NW Approaches after sinking of BISMARCK.
Intercepted German supply ship BELCHEN in
Denmark Strait with HMS KENYA.
Sank BELCHEN by torpedo after radar detection
and surface gun attacks following
information obtained from decryption of ENIGMA
signals. See IN HARMS WAY by B Crabb and Naval
Staff History. The enemy ship
had been deployed to provide fuel for German commerce raiders. This
decryption of enemy signal traffic by GCHQ at Bletchley Park.
BRITISH INTELLIGENCE IN WW2 (HMSO -Ed by Hinsley)
cover with HMS KENYA for minelay by ships of 1st
Minelaying Squadron in
Northern Barrage (Operation SN70B).
in further search for German supply ships
with HM Cruiser NIGERIA, HM Destroyers PUNJABI and TARTAR to carry out a
reconnaissance to determine the suitability of use of
refuelling warships in Lowe Sound.
This was in anticipation of future requirements for Russian convoys and to deny use
of the island to Germany. See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY).
Bear lsland on return passage and destroyed
with HM Cruiser NIGERIA, HM Destroyers TARTAR, ICARUS, ANTHONY,
ANTELOPE and ECLIPSE as escort for ss EMPRESS
OF AUSTRALIA during
passage to land Canadian troops on Spitzbergen
This was to demolish mines and evacuate Russian and Norwegian nationals
Barentsburg. Personnel were taken to Archangel
by HMS NIGERIA and the liner)
NIGERIA rejoined from Archangel.
re-embarked and sailed from Spitzbergen.
Several small vessels captured during raid also sailed. See
ARCTIC CONVOYS by R Woodman and THE WATERY MAZE
out surface gunfire attack on German military convoy off North Cape with HMS
German naval training ship BREMSE deployed as
escort was sunk and two other
escorts damaged. The two troopships in this convoy escaped. HMS
NIGERIA was damaged possibly after grounding or
striking a wreck)
three colliers, an icebreaker, a whaler, a tug and fishing vessels to Clyde.
Flow and resumed Squadron patrol duties.
for interception duties near Iceland.
in Iceland during patrol.
Transferred with HM Cruiser PENELOPE to 15th Cruiser Squadron based at
Alexandria and prepared for service in Mediterranean.
Flow for Gibraltar with HM Cruiser PENELOPE.
from Gibraltar with HMS PENELOPE and met HM Destroyers LANCE and LIVELY
before taking joint passage to Malta to form Force K. (The Siege of
Vice Admiral Sir William Gladstone
Agnew (1898 to 1960)
Commanding the HMS Aurora (Captain W. G. Agnew)
from 1 Sept 1940 to 11 Nov 1943
in Malta for deployment as Force K for attacks on enemy supply
traffic to and from North African ports.
with Force K ships to intercept convoy reported on passage to
to Malta after unsuccessful search.
out another unsuccessful search with ships of Force K.
interception operation carried out night attack on seven ship convoy
destroyers. Sank all mercantiles and Italian
destroyer FULMINE in gun
Two other destroyers EURO and GREGALE were
to Malta undamaged with HMS PENELOPE, HMS LANCE and HMS LIVELY
out offensive sweep as a diversion during military operations in North
with Force K in further diversionary operation to simulate convoy movement
and returned to Malta after nightfall.
for interception of convoy on passage to Benghazi from Greece.
Intercepted convoy west of Crete and sank mercantiles
MAROTZA and PROCIDA carrying
oil fuel. The two torpedo boats LUPO and
CASSIOPEA escorting the convoy were damaged.
to Malta with ships of Force K
from Malta with ships of Force K to meet HM Cruisers AJAX and NEPTUNE, HM
Destroyers KIMBERLEY and KINGSTON on passage from Alexandria to reinforce
Malta Striking Force as Force B to increase offensive operations against supply
on joint deployment with Force B
Italian auxiliary cruiser ADRIATICO with ships
of Force K and later intercepted tanker IRIDIO
MANTOVANI escorted by destroyer
which were both sunk by surface fire in position 75 miles NE of Tripoli.
Ships of Force B were deployed separately.)
in search for convoy with HM Cruisers PENELOPE and NEPTUNE screened
by HM Destroyers JAGUAR and
to Malta after unsuccessful operation.
Cruisers NAIAD and EURYALUS of 15th Cruiser
Alexandria and Fleet destroyers escorting HM Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE carrying
supplies for Malta and under threat of attack by Italian major warships including
battleship LITTORIO and two cruisers. Took part
in tactical deployments which caused Italian ships to retire.
Battle of Sirte - See ENGAGE THE
ENEMY MORE CLOSELY, MALTA CONVOYS
by R Woodman, THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D Macintyre
and Naval Staff History (HMSO-2001).
Afterwards detached with ships of Force K to ensure safe arrival of HMS
with HMS PENELOPE, HMS NEPTUNE, HM Destroyers KANDAHAR
LANCE, LIVELY and HAVOCK to intercept
convoy off Tripoli.
into enemy minefield as a result of which HMS
NEPTUNE and HMS KANDAHAR were sunk. Struck mine
on port side forward, abreast B turret ,causing
flooding and severe
structural damage. List corrected by counter flooding and ship returned to
by HMS LANCE and HMS HAVOCK.
hand for repair by HM Dockyard Malta.
1 9 4
temporary repair to allow permanent repair in UK.
further damage in dry dock during air raids.
1 9 4
January to April
Deployment at Alexandria in continuation.
for transfer to Beirut in the event of threat of invasion of Egypt by enemy
forces. Remained at Alexandria for submarine support.
stores and 1,135 personnel for transfer to new base at Beirut. Took passage
to Beirut escorted by cruiser and seven Fleet destroyers.
torpedoes fired from U372 off Alexandria. Only 30 personnel were lost.
HITLER'S U-WAR by C Blair for details.
During later salvage operations 47 of the stock of 90 torpedoes carried were
Destroyers SIKH, ZULU, CROOME and TETCOTT sank U372 on 4th August in
32.28N 34..37E. 47 personnel from the submarine were rescued including a
Lebanese civilian whose
presence on board has never been explained and may have been an Agent for
1 9 4 2
August to September
Indian Ocean trade defence and patrol duties in continuation. Escorted
convoys between India, West Africa and Fremantle, Australia.
Joined military convoy WS22 in Durban as Local Escort during passage in
Detached from WS22 on arrival at separation point for Aden and Bombay
Took passage from Kilindini to join search operation with HM Cruisers
MAURITIUS and ENTERPRISE for submarine supply ships in Gulf of Aden and
Gulf of Oman (Operation DEMCAT)
Commenced DEMCAT search with RAF CATALINA aircraft co-operation.
DEMCAT search terminated without success and resumed trade defence duties.
Indian Ocean trade defence in continuation.
Indian Ocean deployment in continuation.
1 9 4 3
Indian Ocean trade defence in continuation.
Joined military convoy of five troopships with HM Cruiser GAMBIA as Ocean escort during passage in Indian Ocean from Suez to Fremantle,
Australia with 30,000 men
9th Australian Division recalled from Middle East service to Australia after
Japanese threat to Australia and New Zealand.
Detached from convoy on arrival at Fremantle and resumed Eastern Fleet
Indian Ocean deployment in continuation.
Nominated for return to UK for refit.
16 March 1943 to the 14 January 1944
During the Second World War HMS Lucia was based in Durban, South Africa
serving in the Far East (Indian Ocean).
1 9 4 4
January to August
repair and refit.
refit trials and recommissioned for service in Nore Command
Harwich Escort Force.
at Harwich for nightly anti-E-Boat patrols for protection of East Coast
November to December
Transferred to Rosyth for service with Rosyth Escort Force to escort of East
Coast convoys during North
passage to and from Thames estuary.
details of this period see SEAGULLS IN MY BELFRY by C C who was in command
of the ship.)
1 9 4 5
structural damage during convoy escort in Force 12
conditions and taken in hand for repair by HM Dockyard, Rosyth.
convoy escort duties on completion of repair.
as escort for Convoy FS56.
escort of south bound convoy off Newcastle carried out search for submarine
which had carried out an attack on the
ships under escort and hit a Norwegian mercantile which later sank. Joined
by HM South African Frigate NATAL which was on
passage from Newcastle to Scapa Flow after her acceptance from the
builder. This new frigate then carried out a SQUID
Anti-submarine mortar attack after detecting a submarine and oil and
wreckage came to the surface. SANS NATAL
detached and continued passage.
In view of the inconclusive evidence available the hunt was for some hours
with depth charge attacks which
produced significant further quantities of fuel oil. Left the area
when other warships arrived from Rosyth to continue hunt.
submarine was later identified as U714 and her sinking in
55.57N 01.57W was credited to SANS NATAL. This
decision is at variance with contemporary reports rendered by
HMS WIVERN and with signals exchanged with shore authorities. The position
in which the sunken submarine was found is different
original attack on FS56 which suggests U714 was only damaged
by the SQUID Mortar bombs from SANS NATAL. There were no survivors from
SEAGULLS IN MY BELFRY by C C Anderson.)
Coast convoy escort in continuation.
Day deployed for support of re-occupation of Norway and transport of allied
personnel. Nominated for reduction to Reserve status.
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